The Particle Theatre Company of Bethlehem debuted their second production, THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE on March 11. BEAUTY QUEEN is a dark comedy by Martin McDonagh, whose plays center in and around County Galway in Ireland, where he spent his holidays as a child. This play is the first in the Leenane Trilogy, which also includes A SKULL IN CONNEMARA and THE LONESOME WEST.
BEAUTY QUEEN tells the story of a dysfunctional relationship between a spinster and her domineering and manipulative mother. Maureen (the daughter, played with great skill by Diane Wagner Dobrowolski) discovers that her mother neglected to tell her about a party that Maureen was invited to. She goes to the party and comes home with Pato (Peter Gaughran), who she invites to spend the night, knowing this would annoy her mother (Mary Ann Haupt.) The next morning results in the expected confrontation, with unexpected results. Rounding out the cast is Ray (Garrett Theoret), Pato’s younger brother who is braggadocios and bold.
The performances in this production are all first-rate. Ms. Dobrowolski and Ms. Haupt have some intense and dynamic confrontations as daughter/caretaker and mother/manipulator. I was particularly impressed at the detail with which each woman carried out their characters…each movement, every word were spot on. Mr. Gaughran gave an equally fine performance as Pato, his ego softened by his affection for Maureen. Mr. Theoret played the comic foil to perfection, his character the typical McDonagh young man teetering between duty and desire.
The show was directed by Norman Roberts, who leaned toward the dark side of the dark comedy…there were laughs, certainly, but the confrontations were less humorous than intense, with the undercurrent of mistrust and bitterness evident in the spoken words. That being said, the pace did not lag, with the production moving along comfortably, the audience not given a chance to lose interest.
This show had a very limited run, and closed on March 19th. It was worth taking a run up to Bethlehem to see this lesser-known piece done to perfection by this company.
THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE
by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Norman Roberts
March 11 – 19, 2011
The Fox Environmental Center at Illick’s Mill
130 Illick’s Mill Rd., Monocacy Park